The training cycle:
After my meet last August, I took training fairly easy for about 4 months. After a summer of daily maxing, I was ready for a little time off. I still hit the gym regularly, but I messed around a lot, stayed well within my comfort zone, and took some time to mentally reboot. When I came home for Christmas break, I resumed serious training again. My lifts were essentially unchanged from August, but my body felt great and I was mentally fresh.
Most of my squat training basically boiled down to breaking rep maxes and paused squat maxes. I did much more of my training low bar this time around than last time just to give it a shot. It worked well but definitely beat my elbows up more than high bar. I’d squat hard about 2 days a week, and get a bar on my back for some light work another 2 or 3.
My bench training was basically non-existent. I did a fair amount of overhead work and benched maybe one or two days a week, but didn’t focus on it. My elbows simply couldn’t take a lot of volume and frequency with all the low bar work. I did a little 4 week Sheiko-ish cycle leading up to the meet and I think it helped. 425 was questionable paused when I was fresh 6 weeks out, and was super easy even after squatting at the meet.
Rack pulls helped my deadlift considerably. When I miss deadlifts, it feels like my grip is going to go, my biceps are going to rip, and my traps are being torn off of my neck, not that the weight is actually too heavy for my back, hammies, and hips. The rack pulls got all those tissues used to the heavy loads without hurting my strength off the floor at all. 645 was super rough at my last meet after doing most of my pulls from the floor or a low box, but after working from knee height and upper shins a lot this time around, 650 was a cake opener.
Other things that helped a lot were doing lunges and a lot of split stance work to keep my hip flexors long and strong. Playing catch with a medicine ball in a bottom lunge position is great for hip strength, stability, and mobility. Also, I did a ton of bodyweight glute bridges really focusing on getting my inactive left glute to fire. It’s not quite there yet, but is noticeably better than when I started. A big thanks to Bret Contreras for the suggestion that I focus on symmetrical activation moreso than really heavy loading for my thrusts. It certainly payed off.
The weight cut:
In December I was 225 when I found out Mash Elite was bringing a team to this meet. The number one goal was to dominate the team competition. The plan was for Travis to dominate at 220 and I’d take 242, so I had about 20 pounds of wiggle room with only about 16 weeks to go. The highest I ever got was 245 so I wasn’t planning on an intense cut. Just to play it safe, I drank tons of water starting Sunday cut carbs on Wednesday, salt on Thursday, and stopped drinking except for a few sips on Thursday night. My scale read 240 on Thursday night and 236.5 on Friday morning. No sweat, right? Except that when I showed up for weigh-ins, I was slightly over. I guess my scale at home likes telling me I’m slim and sexy instead of telling me the right weight. However, losing some clothes and taking a pee put me right on the money at 242. More drama than I’d have liked, but nothing crazy. Glad I played it safe and did a mini-cut. I wasn’t in the mood to go back home and sweat for a couple hours.
After that, Lyndsey, Caleb, and I dominated a Chinese buffet for about an hour, and later that evening I ate two pizza and the better part of a half gallon of ice cream.
Since more people registered than were expected to, the meet was split into morning and afternoon sessions. I was in the afternoon one. I got a good night of sleep and showed up around 9:30 to cheer for my team, mid-way through the first flight of squats in the morning session. Drew Mash really stole the show in the morning session and won best female lifter. She went 300-155-345 for an elite total in her second weight class (148 this time around). I’m pretty sure all of our morning lifters won their weight classes. Matt Wininger and Hayden DuPont set all kinds of teenage records, Micah Ferraro and Brandon Warren both hit some PRs, kept their wits about them, and turned in solid totals in their first meet, Cindy Meeker won her class with ease, and Chris Mason handled everyone darn near perfectly (I can only remember 4 or 5 misses all morning for our lifters) while Travis was coaching Becca Gerdon for her MDUSA tryout (at which she PRed on c&j and total).
Lisa Gniewek set the tone for the day though turning in solid total and nearly coming up with a PR squat all while battling stage IV lung cancer. The amount of heart that woman has is just absurd. She was probably the most up-beat person at the entire meet, and if you met her you wouldn’t think she was different from any other middle aged mother aside from being jacked.
The afternoon session started around 2:45. I was our only lifter in the second flight of afternoon lifters. In the first flight, Caleb Tilson and Joe Cook tore it up. Caleb hasn’t even been training for powerlifting and STILL hit a PR squat (as a note, his old PR was a PL squat to parallel, and this one was a high bar, DEEP OL squat), and PR bench, and nearly a PR deadlift after pulling maybe 6 times in the last 2 years. Joe just switched back from OL to PL and totalled somewhere around 1500 at 198. Kevin Nason SMASHED a bench PR of 460 at 275. I’m trying to talk him into doing a full meet, because he’d be good for 1600 right now despite the fact that he hasn’t even trained his squat or deadlift much at all. Barry Holt destroyed every other submaster in the competition despite the fact that he’s had some elbow issues and hasn’t even lifted for the past 2 months.
Warmups felt great. I’d only lifted with a monolift once before, so I took most of my warmups with the mono in the back to get a feel for it before I stepped on the platform. Everything felt super deep and super easy. All my warmups were paused for about 5-10 seconds so I could really open my hips up. 135, 225, 315, 405, 495 (belt on), 585, 635 (wraps on), show time.
Opener – 675: A little drama. Apparently I shrunk after they took my rack height. They had to lower it for me to get it out, but once I did, there was never a question. Paused it at the bottom for about a second so they could get a good look at my hip crease. 3 whites. 25 pound meet PR.
Second – 725: Same deal with the rack height. They forgot to change it on my sheet, but I asked about it before I tried to unrack it this time. Smoke show. 3 whites. 75 pound meet PR.
Third – 750: I thought about going higher after how 725 felt, but I was aiming for the record today, and I knew what I needed to squat to set myself up so I stuck with the plan. Destoyed it. Travis and Chris (both 800 pound raw squatters) told me I was good for 800 if I’d have wanted it, but leaving some weight on the platform was worth it because I knew 750 was what I needed to hit.
My elbow was bugging me after the squat, but I had long enough to wait with the other flight benched that it had calmed down by the time I started warming up. Everything moved well. 135, 225, 315, 365, 385, show time.
Opener – 405: Easy. 3 Whites.
Second – 425: Looked like my opener. 3 Whites. 6 pound meet PR.
Third – 435: Also felt light, but I was shy with leg drive, so it dipped a little bit on the way up because it was a little lower than the groove I’m used to. Still locked it out easy, but reds for the dip. No lift.
My back was a little tight and my left hip was a little sore going into deadlifts, but no more than they’d be after a day of school, so I wasn’t concerned at all. I just needed 710 (15 pounds below my PR) to break the all-time WR. Since I had to pull with straps for all my training deadlifts I was a little leery about my grip, but that went away as I was pulling my warmups. 135, 225, 315, 405, 495, 585, show time.
Opener – 650: Speed pull. 2 whites. I got one red because I locked out my hips so hard one judge said the bar bounced off my hips like a clean pull, which it technically a hitch. 5 pound meet PR.
Second – 710: Never a question. I shuffled a foot while I was sitting it down so I was a little afraid they’d be nit picky about that, but they weren’t. 3 whites. 65 pound meet PR.
Third – Passed. I could have gone for a 1900 total, but I’ll be at 242 for a while now, and I have much bigger totals to hit in this class so there was no need to pull again after I took the record.
Overall – New all-time WRs for both squat and total despite leaving easily 50 pounds (at least 30 for squat, 10 for bench, and 20ish for deadlift) on the platform. It was a solid 7 for 8 day with just one technical miscue.
First and foremost, a huge thanks to my fiance Lyndsey Ruble for being my voice of reason. Before she started training with me, I was stranded with a total around 1450 for about 3 years due to repeated injuries. In the last 2.5 years, she’s kept me from hurting myself doing stupid stuff which has allowed me to improve my best meet total by almost 450 in that time frame. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. Also, she hit her first 300 deadlift like a joke last week:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDNkQyKRoU0]
Thanks to Travis for everything he’s taught me about lifting and the opportunity he’s given me to work and train at the best gym in the country. Thanks to Steve Maxon for putting on a great meet. Thanks to Ryan Coplen of Rhino Fitness for not minding that I bend all his bars when I’m at school.
Miscellaneous stories from the day:
I saw a 780 geared bench that was stupidly impressive. They used the same bar for everyone’s benches, so it was fine for me and all the other raw guys, but it was shaking in his hands like a leaf in the wind. Still smoked it at a jacked 275.
After my third deadlift, I totally slipped and fell on my face. I got baby powder on the bottom of my already-slick slippers. It was fine on the carpeted platform, but after I jumped on Travis, I dropped down and my feet slipped right out from under me on the concrete floor. My last deadlift was the only lift of the day I wasn’t relaxed and cracking jokes for, so it was a fitting way to bring some levity so the situation and bring me back to reality.
In the video for the meet, I wanted to get my good friend Caleb Tilson on camera. He’s a champion, and his very existence is a huge “screw you” to everyone who complains about not accomplishing things because of bad genetics. He had about an 8 inch vertical and folded under a 95 pound squat the first time he tried (literally), and by sheer will and hard work he made university nationals in OL, pulled triple bodyweight, and is a couple tenths away on his 40 yard dash from making the Olympic bobsled team. It’s an awkward video, but we’re both sort of awkward people so it’s fitting.
The legendary Mark Chaillet was the one who gave me my drug test. As we’re walking to the bathroom, I asked him if he was adamant about actually watching me pee or not. His response: “Nah, I’m not that f***ing crazy about it. Besides, you don’t need a f***ing drug test anyways; you’re fat enough that I can tell you don’t use anything, but it’s the rules.” I got a compliment and a burn in the same sentence; I feel strangely honored. I asked him what training advice he had. The two things: get stronger abs (always good advice), and only train squat, bench, and deadlift once every 3 weeks. I was pretty perplexed by the second bit, but he told I could email him if I had any more questions, so I plan on doing that within the next couple of days because I thought it was intriguing, and it clearly worked for him (he was a 900+ deadlifter).
Well, now that I’ve made you read a novella of a meet report, here’s what you probably wanted to see in the first place:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OujNnxEBnbM]